Sunday, November 2, 2008

Whooping Cranes - 4th Day "Stuck" in Green County

Nothing much new today as the cranes and crew are still in Green County, Wi due to weather. This is not unusual, I guess from the field journal at Operation Migration. It's very warm, but a light drizzle and winds kept everyone on the ground.

Wanted to share a video they took today when they let the cranes out of their traveling pen for some exercise -

I'd be concerned they'd just fly away, LOL.

I used the word "stuck" in the title because of an amusing (but scary to the woman "stuck") journal entry by Brooke Pennypacker (isn't that a great name?). This is a long story, but worth it just for the moral. If you live alone, make sure someone checks on you!!! You could be "stuck"

The name, Wisconsin, I have recently learned, is derived from the Indian word for Velcro. A fact which should have been obvious to me since it was an Indian that first learned that money sticks to the stuff, and thus began the stampede of casinos in the state. This goes a long way to explain why it is that year after year our migration stalls in Wisconsin, seemingly before it ever really starts.

The little arrows of the Winds Aloft Computer Chart point as bold and threatening at us as the ones pointed at Custer’s back at Little Big Horn, and it makes about as much sense for us to launch birds into this headwind as it did for Custer to charge into that hail of hostile arrows. So here again we sit - -stuck!

But as I recently learned, there’s stuck…and then there’s STUCK. Just about the time I pulled out my crying towel and starting soaking the thing with my tears of frustration at our predicament, I met a woman who gave the word, “STUCK” a whole new meaning. The encounter went like this…

While driving through Necedah last Sunday on my way back to the second stop pensite, I chanced to see Harold Carter and his wife Sharon attempting to wrestle a giant reclining chair into a trailer parked outside their second hand furniture store. Harold recently retired from the Necedah Refuge where he spent his entire career. In fact, he was born on the Refuge, and his father was the first Refuge Manager back in the 30’s.

Harold spent many days over many years helping to carve out our bird training sites and construct our bird pens, and his ever constant enthusiasm, expertise, and good humor contributed greatly to the success of this project. So, feeling like I had a few good lifts left in my back and excited at the opportunity to finally return a favor, I pulled over.

“Here comes the cavalry,” Harold said, with his characteristic good cheer. And as we completed the loading, he informed me we were delivering it to the lady who got “stuck” in her bathtub a couple of months ago. “You heard about it, didn’t ya?” he asked. I hadn’t, so on the way he filled me in.

Seems this senior citizen, with bad knees and carrying around a few too many pounds, lived alone at the edge of town. One morning while stepping into her bathtub for a bath, her knee gave out. She lost her balance and fell hard, becoming instantly and inextricably wedged. And there, unable to move anything but her arms, she remained stuck - - -for the next FIVE DAYS!

I was instantly intrigued and fascinated by this story. This was clearly a special woman, so when she came to the door I found myself just starring. “Where do you want it?” Harold asked, breaking the spell, and we were soon at war with this electrified, vibrating monster of an easy chair as we moved it by sheer force of will through the front door; a door too narrow for even the thinnest folding chair.

The battle won, I stood sore and panting in front of a living room wall, every inch covered by photographs of family; sisters, brothers, children, their children and their children. It was truly a wall of pride and achievement, and stood in testimony to this humble woman’s contribution to life. I wanted to understand and felt I was beginning to when I realized she was standing next to me, gazing too at the wall. Summoning the nerve for the question I just had to ask her, the words suddenly came out sounding dull and stupid, giving me the feeling that I’d just passed wind in church. ”Would you please tell me what happened to you. I just have to know.”

Recognizing, I suppose, my sincerity, she walked to the dining room table, sat down and began the story, day by day, what she did, what she thought, and how the ordeal had changed her life. She ran the hot water to lessen the chill, broke the window and the shower door in a vain attempt to alert a neighbor, and she prayed. She was rescued on the fifth day when her son came to the front door to check on her. Hearing her screams, he called the fire department and she was saved. Her story is, in a nutshell, an affirmation of faith, and a story of hope and its power and rewards. Her religious faith played a huge role as well.

And there are some practical lessons to be learned here, for this story is nothing if not a cautionary tale. She went on to suggest - plead even:
1) If you live alone, set up with a family member or neighbor or friend a time every day when you will call and confirm all is well, with an understanding of what to do if the call is not made. Nothing elaborate necessary, just a quick call. Harold and Sharon have set up a free service in their store since they are there from 10 to 4 every day, that anyone who wants to can set this up with them. If they don’t hear from that person, they will respond. Just people caring about other people. Incredible!
2) As much as we need bathrooms and bathtubs, as we age or collect injuries, they may over time become less and less our friend and more and more a potential threat. Making the bathroom more user-friendly, in effect taming it down and reconfiguring it to our changing needs and abilities, is absolutely necessary. Nobody needs to get stuck or injured in the bathroom, even if we enter it with a good read!
3) And finally, believe in people. They will almost always try to help when asked, and it makes them feel as good helping you, as you feel when you help them.

You can’t do anything but feel good after an experience like this, and as Harold and I drove away, I hoped the feeling would last for a good long time. So as I sit here, stuck, at our last migration stop in Wisconsin, the sun is shining, birds are singing, I’m still in one piece and life is pretty darn good.

Now, if I could just figure out a way to put wings on a bathtub!

We should be having some clear weather the next few days, hopefully they can get the heck out of Wisconsin and into Illinois. Then, I will really feel like they are on their way.

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1 comment:

SueReu said...

the Cranes are GORGEOUS BIRDS!!! and the story is most definitely something to learn from!!!